What Betty's Brother, Chic, Might Really Be Up to on 'Riverdale'

riverdale explainer
The CW

Riverdale -- the CW's dark retelling of the classic Archie comics -- loves to subvert its squeaky-clean origins. Maple syrup is a front for heroin, Miss Grundy is a hot 20-something, and the humble all-American town is plagued with murder, adultery, and addiction. And now, in its second season, the perfect, blond Cooper family is corrupted after the arrival of their eldest son, Chic.

In the comics, Chic Cooper is as wholesome as his girl-next-door sister, Betty. But the Riverdale version of Betty isn't so easygoing: she suffers from an unnamed mental illness that manifests as self-harm and sexual sadism. She's not the only Cooper kid with a darkness. Her older sister, Polly, has twins with her dead boyfriend – and cousin – Jason Blossom. And now there's Chic, with his own cabinet of curiosities, the contents of which are far more layered and mysterious than what his siblings or mother could ever guess.

The revelation that Betty even had a brother didn't come until the end of Season 1, when her mother Alice confessed that she had a baby in high school that she gave up for adoption. That baby was Chic, who Betty tracked down midway through Season 2. He wasn't the healthy, happy person she expected to find. He's a hollow-cheeked criminal who was never adopted, and spent his life in a foster system that hardened him. Alice's guilt over what happened to the son she never gave a chance has already created extreme rifts in the Cooper clan. She kicked her husband, Hal, out of the house for not warming to him, and even killed a man who showed up on her doorstep threatening Chic. Or did she?

One thing is for certain: Chic's arrival has already united the Cooper women in a web of darkness. But how far will it go? And what does Chic – who grins from the sidelines as his family panics – really want?

chic with milk
The CW

Who are Chic's clients?

When Betty and Alice first find Chic, he kicks them out of the motel room where he's living because he's expecting a client. As Kevin Keller learns, Chic is a cam boy, meaning he poses sexually online for money. Chic tells Betty about this trade, which she eventually adapts for herself, a way of letting out "dark Betty," her wigged alter-ego. It would appear that these webcam clients are the clients Chic was speaking about earlier. But why would they come to his motel room? And who are the mysterious people that keep showing up at the Cooper household?

The easiest assumption is that Chic is involved in drugs – either dealing or buying. Heroin is aplenty in Riverdale, or was before Clifford Blossom's suicide last season. Who took over the Blossom family "maple syrup" business? It's possible Chic is wrapped up in that world and that's why he's acting so suspiciously. It would also answer for his gaunt appearance and anxious demeanor.

Or maybe his sexual deeds extend beyond just webcam antics. Is Chic a male prostitute? Is that how he survived on his own all this time? It's hard to say, but it wouldn't be the craziest thing to happen to a Riverdale kid, and sex work is already an established job in the town. Cheryl's mom is also working as a call girl.

Chic's father
The CW

Who is Chic's father?

Probably the biggest question surrounding Chic is that of his parentage. We know Alice is his mom, but is he a true Cooper? Hal shows a lot of resentment for the kid, going so far as to leave his own home when Chic arrives. That stands in contrast to Hal's love for his daughters. Does he loathe Chic because he's the physical embodiment of Alice's infidelity?

That seems pretty likely, especially given Alice's mysterious past with F.P. Jones. In the latest episode, "The Tell-Tale Heart," F.P. helps Alice dispose of the body of the man she (or Chic) killed in the Cooper home, and the two share a tender hand-holding moment in Pop's Diner. We know that Alice is from the South Side and used to be in F.P.'s gang, the Southside Serpents. She escaped that world and got involved with the wholesome Hal. But when, exactly, did she shed her serpent skin? Could Chic be F.P.'s son, and not Hal's?

That would certainly complicate things with Betty and her boyfriend, F.P.'s son Jughead. But it would also be very Riverdale to have Betty and Jughead share a half-brother. It's not exactly incest, but it's still weird, and Riverdale loves to make us wriggle in our seats.

chic and betty
The CW

What is Chic's endgame with Betty?

Chic seems to derive some sort of sick pleasure from watching his sister tip further into madness. He smiled on at her and Alice as they discussed hiding the body of the man who came for Chic, the man whose death still remains something of a mystery. Did Alice kill him to protect her son, or is she covering for Chic?

We've also seen Chic stand in Betty's doorway and watch her sleep. And he exposed her to the cam girl life. Is he intentionally corrupting her, or is it just in the Cooper kid DNA to be a little messed up?

There's also still the mystery of the Black Hood. Yes, the crime was apparently solved, with the Riverdale High janitor in custody. But questions about the Black Hood keep coming up, with Archie doubting that they caught the right guy. Chic doesn't fit the physical description of the killer, but he could still be the person who was calling Betty pretending to be the hood. Was that Chic worming his way into the Cooper household and his sister's life? Remember the "Hood's" wording to Betty: we're the same. As Betty predicted in the mid-season finale regarding the Black Hood, "This isn't over." Maybe, with Chic in her house, it's just getting started.

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Lindsey Romain is a regular Thrillist contributor.